Michael Laudrup: Swansea City's league starts after the top seven
MICHAEL Laudrup has dismissed the idea that Swansea City could challenge for the top six this season, declaring: "Our league starts at eighth."
Tipped for relegation on the eve of their two previous Premier League seasons, Swansea kick off the new campaign this weekend with some pundits backing them to swim with the big fish towards the summit of the table.
But Laudrup insists it is unrealistic to expect his team to "step like giants" given the sides who finished above them last season.
"I have not heard people saying will be relegated this year," said Laudrup, "but I have heard some reports saying our team can go a lot further than last season.
"It is easy to talk but, while I like to be positive, I also like even more to be realistic. You have to look who we are up against. We can beat anybody on one day, but over 38 games in the Premier League it is a different story.
"People say we can finish sixth, but last season Liverpool were seventh and they had 15 points more than us. Can we get 15 more points this year? I don't think so.
"Hopefully we can get more than last year, but I don't think anyone inside the club would say we can get 15 more.
"We want to take one step forward, and that's not 15 points. That would be a whole ladder, and we cannot step like a giant. We have to be calm."
Laudrup says he will feel more confident about making predictions when Swansea have played a handful of games — and the transfer window is closed. But he believes a third successive mid-table finish would represent another fine season for his team.
"I think first seven spots in league already there — we play for positions from eighth to 20th," Laudrup added.
"You have the three teams who can win the league, Chelsea and the two Manchesters, and then you have Arsenal and Tottenham fighting to get into the top four. Liverpool and Everton are also hoping to do that, and then come the rest of us. You have Newcastle, who have some very good players and I think may be eighth, so the last 11 or 12 teams are the ones in our league."
Swansea begin the new season against one of the heavyweights tomorrow as Manchester United come to town.
Their preparations have been hit by the loss of Jonathan de Guzman (concussion), while Swansea will today check on the fitness of Wilfried Bony after he played 72 minutes for the Ivory Coast in the early hours of yesterday morning.
United have injury concerns too, with Michael Carrick and Ashley Young both withdrawing from the England squad in midweek. There are also question marks over what part, if any, Wayne Rooney will play as David Moyes leads United in a league game for the first time.
"Sir Alex Ferguson's personality was part of Manchester United, but they have built a wining mentality over many years which will still be there," Laudrup said.
"I look at the three teams who could have won the title last season, and I don't think United had a much better team than the other two. But they had the winning mentality. It's like DNA to them."